If there was one takeaway from the vice presidential debate last week (besides the fly that took up residence on Vice President Mike Pence’s head), it was that neither presidential candidate’s platform denounced fracking.
For some context, fracking, or hydraulic fracturing, is a method of recovering gas and oil from shale rock. After drilling down into the earth, a high-pressured mixture of water, chemicals and sand is then injected into the rock, cracking it to release the natural gas and crude oil reserves inside.
Fracking puts a heavy strain on freshwater resources and contaminates the water used beyond repair, depositing it deep in the earth after use so it doesn’t contaminate the freshwater cycle. An unsteady underground rock formation that has been drilled into can compromise the stability of underground water resources and aquifers, putting the drinking water supply of entire regions at risk. Additionally, contaminated water or fracking fluid leaks can percolate back into the water table and into drinking water supplies.
Despite the widespread environmental degradation caused by fracking, more than 1.7 million United States wells have been created using the fracking process, which have produced more than seven billion barrels of oil and 600 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. While it has undeniably allowed the United States to be more self-sufficient in its energy usage and created many jobs, the harvesting of a nonrenewable resource is creating lasting environmental effects and it’s essential to consider greater investment in more sustainable forms of energy that could replace fracking in the long term.
Enter the Green New Deal. While the term has floated around for the past few decades, the most recent legislation was proposed by Congressional Democrats in 2019. The proposal has lofty goals, including expanding renewable energy production in the United States to meet 100% of the country’s power demand, starting by weaning the country off of its reliance on fossil fuel industries.
Among other things, the proposal also lays out plans to develop a “smart grid” — that is, improving the nation’s existing electrical grids with better technologies — establishing more efficient agricultural practices to reduce emissions, working toward zero-emission transportation and developing low-tech solutions like carbon sinks.
Although Democratic vice presidential candidate Kamala Harris has been a noted proponent of the Green New Deal, even co-sponsoring the resolution, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s official platform notably states that he “believes the Green New Deal is a crucial framework for meeting the climate challenges we face,” deftly sidestepping the question of whether or not he supports the legislation. Moreover, his plan, titled the “Clean Energy Revolution,” makes no mention of his position on fracking whatsoever. Harris reaffirmed this during the debate,…